Thursday, October 15, 2015

Baseball season as an expat

In 2006 when the Cardinals won the World Series, we sported our Cardinal Santa hats. Cardinals fans forever1
Far across the world--nine time zones from St Louis Cardinal Nation, I am in mourning. The St. Louis Cardinals just lost in the post season for the National League Championship to the Chicago Cubs. Yes, even as an expat, living among mosques and emerging World Cup 2022 stadiums here in Doha, Qatar, I am rooting for our team. We are a faithful little enclave of Cardinal Nation over here--never to forget our allegiances. My dear friend, once an expat herself in Malaysia for 13 years who grew up in St. Louis, told me of days getting up at 4:00 am to watch games too. To be a baseball fan is a serious past time. As George Will said, "It is said that baseball is only a game. And the Grand Canyon is only a big hole in Arizona...." I guess I got my baseball fever from my grandpa who always had his small radio to his ear--to hear his beloved Yankees.

Baseball, especially in the autumn, is as important as Halloween or the brilliant, vibrant changes of the season in St. Louis. School almost, and I say almost, closes down, if the Cardinals inch to the World Series. No one thinks much about anything else--work, school, deadlines. If a game is going on, the roads and emergency rooms are mostly empty. Euphoria, celebration, and the deepest of happiness spreads all over Cardinal Nation. Everyone's fears, angst, sadnesses blow away for a few weeks in October when the team is playing its post season games. Baseball is a unifier of all peoples, at least for a few weeks in St. Louis in the post season of baseball. We become kids again--together at a stadium or in front of a screen.

Cheering our team in Busch stadium in St. Louis!

 I have been told that the Cardinal or Redbird nation actually bleeds into ten states, and was Colorado's team of choice until the Rockies appeared in 1993.  But I must reiterate: Cardinal fans do not die if we move across the world. We are still devotees of the highest order, and wear our Cardinals apparel in pride around the markets in Doha. Since we travel a lot as expats, we have found St. Louis Cardinal fans in Paris and Amman, Jordan. You see, we are hearty, resolute fans--always keeping the faith that another win is around the corner--another time to celebrate and unify together. We believe in the mantra, "There is always next year."

Baseball interweaves the past and the present in our lives, and all the "mystical, miraculous moments,"says author John Sexton. I agree. When David Freese hit the unexpected home run in Game #6 of the 2011 World Series, well, those are moments you cannot forget. They are etched in our hearts.  I don't think St. Louis and Cardinal Nation slept much that night. Only one other team, the  Mets '86, came out of the one strike away abyss to win the World Series (I was living in New York City at the time when cars were being turned over in Manhattan, and the whole city was triumphant for a season). As St Louis Cardinal Skip Schumaker said in 2011, "It must have been destiny."" Baseball reminds us there is always hope, always comebacks, always a chance for redemption.

On a Teton river trip with some of my boys--all sporting their Redbird hats.

Indeed, we fans stick together, starting in the spring, to feel that camaraderie, community, and unity on a green field. To share those marked moments with loved ones, with all the history and tradition, is worth all the hoopla. Dancing around with my husband and teenage boys in our living room when David Freeze hit his famous home run are lore of Shumway family history. Need I tell you that I was roused out of bed that night because I had given up hope on the Cardinals?  I saw the famous home run, but almost missed it. Never again. Baseball, the game without a clock, is a game about never relinquishing hope.

That is the reason why we keep coming back for next year--to be a part of a Nation, a community that shares miracles together. But in the meantime, as we are supposed to be happy for others, and I will give a shout out for Chicago who won their against the Cardinals on their turf at Wrigley Field. But again, just you wait until next year.... My hope will never run dry.


  1. Yes, Maryan, this is it! I felt this as a child rooting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, close to where I grew up. And the last 20 years rooting on the San Francisco Giants! It is a uniting, patient, team sport that keeps us coming back, believing, not believing, having elation and disappointment, and when they can bring it all together to win the World Series, the whole community can feel the joy together. Thanks for sharing this! And I feel your pain. Next year, Go Cards and Go Giants!

  2. Have you heard of the autobiographical book by Doris Kearns Goodwin about her growing up with the Brooklyn Dodgers? I have read some of it, and loved it. You remember her, she wrote Team Without Rivals and a few more. I love that all of you love baseball too!